Fanny Price And Why We Dislike Her

*thoughts after reading the book; in no way academically informed. 

I just finished Mansfield Park this week, thus finally finishing all of Austen’s main novels. It only took me nine years, but we got there.

Mansfield Park is pretty notorious for being long, slow, and its heroine, Fanny Price, incredibly lackluster to say the least. I started this book five years ago, but couldn’t for the life of me continue. I watched the movie adaption (because Jonny Lee Miller), but I felt comfortable in agreeing with the general dislike towards this insufferable book.

This time, perhaps I had a more open mind. I actually enjoyed it. I laughed! I cried re-watching the movie. And in the end, here’s the conclusion I arrived at concerning Fanny Price.

The reason we dislike Fanny so much, the reason she (and Edmund) rub us the wrong way, is because her superpower is attainable. Hear me out.

We like stories of heroines who are beautiful, witty, and/or rich, and, of course, have one major character flaw: pride and prejudice (Elizabeth), excess or lack of sense and sensibility (Elinor and Marianne), unsteadiness of will and immense regret (Anne), overconfidence (Emma), and naivety (Catherine).

These flaws make the characters interesting, drive the story, but also make us feel good about ourselves. Just a little. “Well, at least I’m not that proud/sensitive/haunted/blind.” Or at least their stories soothe us in the way we can relate to them.

But Fanny makes us uncomfortable.

Fanny’s flaws are being poor, sickly, and not much to look at. But her character–ah, that’s a whole different story. She has “touches of the angel in [her].” Henry, with all his faults, was perceptive enough to see what Fanny’s own relatives could not.

We dislike Fanny not because she’s good. Too good. But because she shows we could be too. To be principled, think religion, a life of meditation and service, worthy above worldly riches and society, to choose to be good and hold oneself to a higher standard–it’s all within our reach. And Fanny proves that.

She stomps out excuses of peer pressure. Her own moral ally, Edmund, giving his approval for her acceptance of Crawford! Sir Thomas, her guardian, urging her to do so! The way it would influence her family for the better! Ah, to be so principled and discerning concerning one’s duty to others versus one’s duty to one’s self.

She disproves the need for “the right environment” to be principled–surrounded by indolence, a lack of morals and scruples, she stood firm.

She proves morals and goodness cannot be a result of education alone. (Her cousins received the same education if not a better one.) It is a matter of choice. Something we all possess.

After finishing the book, I read Henry and Fanny, by Sherwood Smith. In it, Mary C. says, “So I have learned that one can choose the moral path, even if it is not in one’s nature. Even if it goes against one’s nature,” (pg. 1592, kindle). This is the point, I believe, that Fanny’s character teaches. And it’s highly uncomfortable. So we call her a prude and wish her and Edmund happiness in their high castle riding their high horses.

But if we had a little less pride and prejudice, a little more sense and sensibility, a little less confidence in our own goodness, a little more resoluteness in our principles could do us all some good.

Also, I think everyone should read Smith’s alternate ending because, Jane, honey, why do you do this to us?

Further Ramblings With an Abrupt Ending:

Mansfield Park (1999)

This version seems so much more recent than ’99. The quality and cinematography are quite pleasing. Both movies stray from the book, and this version saddened me in the way it completely erased William’s storyline, as well as made Sir Thomas so horrid. In the book, his fault is inattentiveness. In the movie, he’s just awful and cruel.

Still, I think watching the movie informs the book. This version really stresses the slave trade and Sir Thomas’ probable involvement in it. It makes sense that if Tom ever did gain some notion of the business, he would be such a troubled person. The book tells us Mr. Price is gross; the movie clarifies a bit as to how.

This version also brought me closer to accepting Austen’s original ending. Henry Crawford had the choice to exercise self-denial for his own sake. But instead, his steadfastness only lasted as long as he believed he’d eventually get what he wanted, Fanny. The movie really brought that out to me in a way I didn’t grasp through the book. His fall took me by surprise, and I was disappointed. The movie showed what Fanny could foresee.

Mansfield Park (2007)

This version already had everything against it by casting Blake Ritson as Edmund. I am so sorry, Blake, but I can only see you as the awful Mr. Elton. He’s the parson in Emma and a clergyman in Mansfield. It’s like seeing Mr. Elton playing Edmund. It’s just… *shudders*.

Mrs. Norris and Mrs. Betram were not nearly as ridiculous as they needed to be. Although, Mrs. Norris’ cruelty was spot on. Sir Thomas looked too young. And Fanny’s romantic love for Edmund was too evident. It felt more restrained in the book.

I am glad they kept the William storyline, especially the necklace.

Did You Know: It’s OK to Be Happy

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Are you a driven go-getter, a self-motivated individual who is always ready for the next challenge? Do you follow productivity icons like Jasmine Star and Gary Vaynerchuk whose daily messages are HUSTLE, GRIND, RINSE, REPEAT? Are you getting excited because you’re reading this like a job posting? Then this message is for you.

Daily, you and I are bombarded with messages inciting us to want more. Take a look at the apps on your phone. How many of them help us compare our jobs, productivity, relationships, lifestyle, bodies, etc. with that of our peers? Maybe we can count those apps on our fingers, but can we count how much time they take up in our day or how much space its effects take up in our minds and hearts?

Because there is already so much content towards inciting the hustle and because you already agreed you are a self-motivated individual, I wanted to tell you something new. Bear with me because it goes against other voices out there. Ready?

It’s enough. It’s okay to stop. It’s okay to be content right where you are. It’s okay to be happy now.

Our society has somehow twisted our perspective. We brag about stress and sleepless nights, trying to outdo each other with tales of how busy we are. If you don’t have anxiety, are you really trying hard enough? Doing enough? If you’ve never fought depression, are you really pushing yourself?

“It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” – Brené Brown

Maybe you don’t have the job you or your family always dreamed you would, but does what you’re doing right now give you fulfillment and peace? Does it give you time for play and self-care? Then it’s enough.

Maybe your family doesn’t look like what you thought it would by now, but are you surrounded by people who support and love you? Then it’s enough.

Maybe you haven’t traveled or aren’t as worldly as others seem, but do you know all the best things to do and order at the hidden gems in your own town? Then it’s enough.

Maybe your body doesn’t look a certain way, but can it move, heal, and give you the pleasure of seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling…thinking? Then it’s enough.

Let enough be enough. We need to allow ourselves contentment and not attach to it the ill connotations associated with “settling”. We cannot get so caught up in the pursuit of happiness that we never allow ourselves to arrive at the destination. Happiness is now! It’s today or never.

Take a deep breath and firmly believe: What I am doing right now is enough. I can allow myself happiness.

It is enough to work part-time or to have a side hustle in addition to your 9-5. It is enough to have many friends or only a few. It is enough to travel or to stay in. It is enough to create content, and it’s enough to consume it.

Smile and affirm: What I am doing right now is enough. I can allow myself happiness.

It’s okay to have found your calling by 18. It’s okay to not have found it by 50. It’s okay to be getting that post-grad, and it’s okay to be getting your GED. It’s okay to be single, to be happily married and child-free, or to be planning for baby number x.

Do not stifle the happiness created now with comparisons to what others are doing or to what a different you could be doing.

Think about it: now is all we have. Let’s spend it happy.

One Year Later

This evening we celebrated our one year anniversary with a picnic in my parent’s backyard. My mother and mother-in-law baked, the boys helped set things up, and we spent the evening reminiscing about a year ago, enjoying how good it feels to be together, and thanking God for the blessing this past year has been.

The other day we were talking with my dad and he mentioned how it’s said that the first year is the hardest. Vini and I looked at each other and high-fived. Seems like the rest of our lives is going to be pretty swell. I can’t wait.

Whenever any of my friends ask for advice on wedding planning, I tell them to put lots of love into the location they pick. To choose one that’s already stunning just the way it is. One they won’t have to spend a fortune on decorations to hide imperfections. One that’s beautiful on a sunny day, but also works on a rainy or cloudy day.

I think my advice would be the same on choosing your life partner. It’s only been a year, which hardly qualifies me to be giving advice, so here’s just my experience: it’s pretty fun when you’re married to your best friend. It’s so much better when you’ve chosen someone who you aren’t counting on changing. Someone stunning just the way they are. Someone you are proud to stand beside through all the seasons.

To our family and friends, thank you for your prayers and love and support. You are such an important part of our journey.

To my best friend and partner in everything, I love you more each day. To paraphrase Paul in Philippians 1, I thank God for you daily, praying for you with joy. Here’s to forever, my love.
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Esta noite celebramos nosso aniversário de um ano de casados com um piquenique no quintal dos meus pais. Minha mãe e minha sogra cozinharam e os meninos ajudaram a arrumar as coisas no quintal. Passamos a noite relembrando os acontecimentos há um ano, desfrutando o quão bom é estar juntos e agradecendo a Deus pelas bênçãos recebidas neste ano de casados.

Outro dia estavamos conversando com meu pai e ele mencionou que algumas pessoas dizem que o primeiro ano é o mais difícil. O Vini e eu olhamos um para o outro e high-fived. Parece que o resto de nossas vidas será excelente. Eu mal posso esperar.

Quando alguma amiga me pede conselhos sobre o planejamento de casamento, eu digo para escolherem bem o local. Falo para escolher um lugar que seja lindo do jeito que é. Um com qual eles não terão que gastar uma fortuna em decorações para esconder imperfeições. Um que é bonito em um dia ensolarado, mas também funciona em um dia chuvoso ou nublado.

Eu acho que o meu conselho seria o mesmo na escolha do seu parceiro de vida. Faz apenas um ano, o que quase não me qualifica para dar conselhos, então é só minha experiência: é muito divertido quando você está casado com seu melhor amigo. É muito melhor quando você escolhe alguém que não está esperando para mudar. Alguém impressionante do jeito que é. Alguém que você possa ter orgulho de estar ao lado em todas as estações.

Para a nossa família e amigos, obrigado por suas orações, amor e apoio. Vocês são uma parte muito importante na nossa jornada.

Para meu melhor amigo e parceiro em tudo: eu amo você mais a cada dia.
Parafraseando Paulo em Filipenses 1: Agradeço a Deus por você diariamente, orando sempre em alegria. Te amo.

 

Post Blood Donation

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Last year I came across a post by our local news announcing upcoming blood donation clinics in the new year. I recognized one clinic was going to be right across the street from us, and Vini and I decided to go. Both of us have family members that are regular donors and we had been wanting to join in, so what better opportunity than the new year! Continue reading